African American Artists before the Twentieth Century
Edward Mitchell Bannister, Approaching Storm (1886). Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. / Art Resource, NY
Bannister believed that landscape painting was more than simple mechanical representation but was in fact an act of near religious ardor. He once delivered a lecture in which he described the role of the artist as the "the interpreter of the infinite, subtle qualities of the spiritual idea centering in all created things, expounding for us the laws of beauty, and so far as finite mind and executive ability can, revealing to us glimpses of the absolute idea of perfect harmony." There certainly is harmony in Approaching Storm (1886) but there is power, too—power magnified by the tiny human figure bearing an axe. Though the figure is the focus of the work, he is dwarfed by the wildly soughing trees and the surrounding landscape; nevertheless, he struggles against the sheer force of the oncoming gale toward some unknown destination.